Interviews

After Exit: I avoided boring investments and bought a French villa

4 min read

22 March 2017

Former deputy editor

In a mini-series from Real Business called After Exit, we found out what company owners like Gordon McAlpine did after selling their business and realising all that hard work – such as snapping up a French Villa.

Part of running a company is envisioning an exit strategy. So, as an SME owner, if you were to sell the business, what would you spend your money on? Steering clear of boring investments and getting the keys to his sought-after French Villa was the key for Gordon McAlpine.

When it comes to life after exit, we caught up with a handful of entrepreneurs who made that very choice to sell the business to find out how they spent their hard-earned money.

Business owner: Gordon McAlpine

Company: BigHand, a tech startup that specialised in speech recognition

For Gordon McAlpine, his choice to sell tech business BigHand in 2006 meant he could realise a new dream – buying a French villa in the south of the country.

McAlpine admitted defying “sensible suggestions” from family and friends to capitalise on the profit gradually, as he considered these to be boring investments.

“I defied all the sensible suggestions of family and friends to be prudent, take my time and gradually invest the money into savings accounts for a few months or years – how boring,” he detailed. “Instead I decided to smell the roses and realise a dream that I had been working towards.”

That dream was an investment of the luxury variety worth untold sentimental value.

“The year before, Claire and I had got married in a hill-top village in Provence and I had vowed that if we ever managed to sell the business we would return and buy a beautiful French villa in this special part of the world,” McAlpine recalled.

“I said ‘come on, Claire. You, me and Mia are going to the South of France and we’ll come back when we’ve found our dream holiday home.’ A month later we had found the one and the deal was done

“Sipping a chilled glass of Provence rosé on our new terrace, overlooking the pool and the vista of mountains and pine forest below, I could hardly believe this had happened to me.”

Leaving BigHand behind wasn’t the end of entrepreneurship for McAlpine, however. He went on to start a new venture in 2009 called The Sales Club, which was designed to help sales leaders unlock the best performance from their teams.

“After leaving BigHand, I wanted to do something completely different, but something that was meaningful and could make a difference to others,” McAlpine said.

“I knew that being a sales director could be a lonely, high-pressured role, with high expectations but often with little support. So, I founded the world’s first membership club for sales leaders, The Sales Club.

McAlpine exited The Sales Club this year and is now mentoring at Strathclyde University Business School and Tech London. He has also appeared on Channel 4’s Secret Millionaire.

Check out our other After Exit business owners